If you’ve ever dreamt of working on cruise ships: envisioning travel, adventure, and unique experiences, you might want to take a closer look at the other side of the story.
While cruising the open seas and exploring various destinations can be alluring, life as a crew member on a cruise ship comes with its own set of challenges and drawbacks.
From long working hours to demanding living conditions, let’s delve into 10 aspects of cruise ship employment that often evoke mixed feelings among crew members.
Prepare for long work hours
The first and most commonly acknowledged challenge of working on cruise ships is the demanding workload and extended hours crew members endure. Many crew members find themselves working up to 12-hour shifts, seven days a week.
The absence of overtime pay, despite the excessive hours, adds to the frustration. This demanding schedule is partly attributed to the unique nature of cruise ship employment, where crew members often sign up as contract workers rather than direct employees of the cruise line.
The repetitive boat drills
One aspect familiar to both guests and crew members is the routine boat drills conducted at the start of each cruise. However, for crew members, the frequency of these drills—repeated weekly for six to nine months—can become monotonous and tiresome.
The drills involve gathering in cramped spaces, such as sardines in a tin, and receiving instructions that often fade from memory. Digitalization is slowly replacing these drills, offering some relief from this recurring experience.
Limited culinary delights
While the thought of meals aboard a cruise ship might evoke visions of sumptuous buffets and diverse cuisines, the reality for crew members can be quite different.
Crew members typically dine in an area known as “the mess,” where food options might be limited to mystery meat and repetitive servings of rice. Although some higher-ranking crew members get to enjoy guest areas, the overall food experience is often underwhelming.
Like any workplace, cruise ships have a hierarchical structure that stratifies crew members based on their positions. Those in higher-ranking positions may enjoy privileges such as better accommodations, improved dining options, and more respect from peers.
While this stratification is natural, it can lead to tensions and clashes among crew members with varying ranks.
Strict rules and regulations
Cruise ships are governed by a multitude of rules and regulations, both for the safety of crew members and passengers. These regulations, though necessary, can sometimes make crew members feel restricted, akin to being overly cautious parents or prisoners. Shore leave, or the opportunity to explore port destinations during stops, is limited by the ship’s schedule and regulations, causing some crew members to miss out on off-ship experiences.
Challenging living conditions
Crew members’ living accommodations can be a major adjustment for those new to cruise ship life. Shared cabins are the norm, with roommates often working differing hours, causing potential sleep disruptions.
Higher-ranking crew members may have more comfortable quarters, yet the majority find themselves navigating small spaces and adjusting to communal living.
Disappointing pay and financial struggles
Despite expectations of decent pay, many crew members find themselves facing financial challenges during their contracts. In some cases, poor spending habits or family responsibilities can lead to financial strain.
Additionally, expenses for excursions, crew bar drinks, and communication back home can accumulate, leading to unexpected financial stress.
Tenuous job security
Working on cruise ships comes with a level of job insecurity due to the stringent adherence to rules and regulations. A minor slip-up, lateness, or other violations can result in immediate termination. This aspect adds an underlying pressure that can be anxiety-inducing for crew members.
Relationships: Complex and fleeting
While working on a cruise ship provides the opportunity to forge connections with people from diverse backgrounds, it also presents challenges in terms of relationships. Both friendships and romantic connections can form, but they are often short-lived due to the transient nature of cruise ship contracts. The necessity of choosing between staying in touch post-contract or waiting for the next contract can be emotionally taxing.
Guest behavior and expectations
The majority of cruise ship guests are pleasant, respectful, and appreciative of the crew’s hard work. However, entitled and demanding guests can create challenging interactions for crew members.
Some guests may treat crew members disrespectfully, expecting elevated treatment simply based on their choice of accommodations.
In conclusion, working on a cruise ship is undoubtedly a unique experience filled with opportunities for personal growth and exposure to different cultures.
However, it also brings to light various challenges that crew members encounter daily. From demanding work hours to challenging relationships and dealing with entitled guests, life on board a cruise ship is a multi-faceted journey that requires resilience, adaptability, and a strong sense of camaraderie among crew members.
As the cruise industry evolves post-pandemic, these insights shed light on both the drawbacks and rewards of life at sea.